Riverside School Board opposes county school district formation

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Riverside School Board met on the Caraway campus Monday, Jan. 9, and worked though a short agenda consisting of contracts and surveys.

Board President Mike Hook explained the regulations to be placed on meeting agenda, per request. About 15 people were in attendance and one had requested to be on agenda.

"According to the rules for being placed on the agenda, as voted on July 14, 1988, a person must submit in writing their request the Friday before the minutes are mailed out," Hook said. "They were mailed out last Friday for our meeting tonight, so the request had to be received by Dec. 30, to be considered."

The board then proceeded with their meeting.

Transferral of students Jodie and Dennis Smalley from Riverside to Brookland school was approved by the board, upon a second request, and after a brief discussion.

Directors voted 4-1 for approval of a resolution stating their opposition to the establishment of county school districts, as proposed by Ruth Whittaker in Senate Bill #132. Mike Brickell cast the opposing vote.

"We are opposed to the formation of county school districts," Board member Donna Qualls said.

Other board members expressed their agreement of retaining their individual schools, and not going countywide.

"Do not sign off on the resolution if we are not unanimous," board member Kenny Weathers said.

Directors went into executive session to discuss renewal of Superintendent Larry Nowlin's contract. Nowlin and audience members left the board room and waited outside the building together.

Caraway resident Rhonda New spoke to Nowlin outside and showed him a copy of a petition requesting a second open meeting to discuss relocation or renovation fo the Jr. and Sr. High buildings. There were 75 signatures of residents included on the petition.

"The meeting last week (Jan. 4) left issues unresolved, and we are requesting that we have another meeting," New said. "We are also concerned about Buster Campbell not being reprimanded for his conduct at that meeting. He knocked over a chair that almost hit my daughter. I asked you to have him apologize to her, and he did. She rides his bus."

"Any action concerning Buster would be up to the board," Nowlin said. "We can't just discipline or let a teacher go for any reason. We have strict rules and regulations we must follow."

"I have read Riverside's school policy and it says someone can be let go for fighting on the school grounds," New said.

"Is that the student's handbook?" Nowlin asked.

"No, it is the Classified Personnel Policies Handbook, as listed on the internet, under the Arkansas Department of Education," New said. "It lists seven violations under Job Performance that are serious enough to warrant immediate termination. Number 5 is "fighting on the premises." Are you'll going to do anything about this?"

"Again, that is up to the discretion of the school board," Nowlin said.

After an hour long executive session the board reconvened and voted 3-2 to extend the Superintendent's contract. Board members Weathers and Mike Brickell cast the descenting votes.

New presented Hook with the signed petition and asked them to consider holding another open meeting at Caraway.

The board voted to accept the petition and take it under consideration, but tabled any decision.

"We have not yet had a meeting in Lake City to get their input on facilities, either" Hook said.

"It might be better to make up a list of patrons and send out a paper listing four or five different scenarios instead of having another meeting like the other night," Nowlin said. "We could send notes home with the students."

"A few come out and speak while others don't come out at all," Hook said. "A letter might be more informative."

"We could use the voters registration list for the mail out," Brickell said.

"Everyone should have a chance to express their views, even if they don't have a kid in school," Weathers said. "We could put it in the paper also."

"Using voter registrations might have a lot of duplications in a mail out," Hook said.

"But it would be fair to both areas," Weathers said. "However it could cause a lot of controversy."

"I don't know what the best answer is," Hook said. "But it couldn't be any worse than it was last week."

"Who will be the ones to decide?" asked Nowlin. "We have to get a report in by February 1. Our window of opportunity for funding will soon be closing, on May 7, 2006."

"If we are not growing by May, we might want to look at going in with some other schools," Weathers said.

"We have to look at enrolment," Nowlin said. "We can mail out and send home with kids both, and get their response."

"They will come back like a ballot, from each household," Hook said. "Then we can review them."

"I think the board needs to look at the questions before they are mailed out," Weathers said.

"I can get a committee to develop a list of questions on the survey and bring it back to the board," Nowlin said. "We can also poll the students at school."

"We want the results of these to be brought back to the school board also," Weathers said.

Nowlin agreed to bring results back to board.

Weathers reported on a planned meeting for January 15 with board members from BIC, Manila and Riverside invited to discuss future choices for Jr. and Sr. High schools.

"The governor has been encouraging doing this," Nowlin said.

"We have all been in good shape for 20 years, but now there might be a better way to look at survival in the future. The meeting is to be at 2 p.m. at the Community of Christ Church in Caraway. This will be a round-table discussion. We could have the best of everything if we could all join together. It is worth a try," Weathers said.

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